UN council to vote on Syria amid new assault
In an unusual weekend session, European envoys to the UN Security Council said they would vote on a resolution calling for Syrian President Bashar Assad to step down. The move came as more than 200 people reportedly were killed in one of the worst episodes of the uprising.
European envoys to the Security Council said they would vote Saturday on a draft resolution backing an Arab League call for Syrian President Bashar Assad to step down amid talk that Russia would ask for a delay.Skip to next paragraph
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The ambassadors spoke as they headed into an unusual weekend session. The urgency was heightened by an assault by Syrian forces firing mortars and artillerey on the city of Homs. Activists said more than 200 people were killed in what they called one of the bloodiest episodes of the uprising. The U.N. says more than 5,400 people have been killed over almost 11 months in a government crackdown on civilian protests.
Although Western nations were pressing for a vote, there was no guarantee the resolution would pass.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Saturday at a security conference in Munich that Moscow still saw two problems of "crucial importance" with the draft resolution on the violence in Syria. Western countries have been working to head off a possible Russian veto if the resolution goes to a vote.
But patience among some nations was running out.
"We are really in the end game," German Ambassador Peter Wittig said. "There should be no more foot dragging. The events in Homs are really terrible."
"Russia will ask for a delay, but we will be voting today," British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said.
"Now, it's over," agreed French Ambassador Gerard Araud. "This text is simple. We support the Arab peace plan. Nothing more, nothing less and we vote today."
Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told reporters before entering the meeting that he had asked for a meeting of all Security Council ambassadors before any vote was taken, but provided no other specifics. The council began meeting shortly after 10 a.m. (1500 GMT) behind closed doors.
It was not immediately clear if the meeting would be opened later, or when a vote might be called.
In Germany, Lavrov said the resolution makes too few demands of anti-government armed groups, and that Moscow remains concerned that it could prejudge the outcome of a national dialogue among political forces in Syria.
Syria has been a key Russian ally since Soviet times and Moscow has opposed any U.N. call that could be interpreted as advocating military intervention or regime change.
President Barack Obama urged the Security Council to take a stand against Assad's regime and back the resolution.
"The international community must work to protect the Syrian people from this abhorrent brutality," Obama said in a statement issued by the White House.